Carson Wentz

Different motives for kneeling? Faith-based logic for some Eagles to miss White House rite?

Different motives for kneeling? Faith-based logic for some Eagles to miss White House rite?

If you have been anywhere near social media (or a television) in the past couple of days, then you know that the latest media storm linked to America's Tweeter In Chief concerns the National Football League, the world-champion Philadelphia Eagles, kneeling and the National Anthem.

Of course, when it comes to the NFL and images of kneeling, not all kneelers are considered equal (based on past controversies). Hold that thought.

The current controversy centers on the fact that many Eagles players were not planning to go to a White House rite to celebrate their Super Bowl win. For some -- repeat "some" -- of the players, their decision was linked to ongoing #BlackLivesMatter efforts to protest disturbing acts of police violence against African Americans. But other players had other places that they needed to be. Hold that thought, as well.

In response, President Donald Trump did that thing that he does. Here is a bite from a typical news story, at ESPN:

The White House has blamed the Philadelphia Eagles for President Donald Trump's decision to cancel the ceremony to celebrate their Super Bowl victory. ... White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sensed "a lack of good faith" by the Eagles during discussions about the scheduled event.

According to Sanders, the Eagles notified the White House on Thursday that 81 people would attend the event, which was scheduled for Tuesday. A group of 1,000 Eagles fans also were scheduled to be a part of the ceremony.

Trump also took to Twitter to knock the NFL's decision to allow players, in the future, to choose to remain in the locker room during the National Anthem. This move accompanied an order attempting to shut down various forms of visible protest, including kneeling.

The president’s next move was easy to predict. On Twitter, he added this:


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Religion ghost in Philadelphia Eagles quarterback room: Was faith part of Super Bowl facts?

Religion ghost in Philadelphia Eagles quarterback room: Was faith part of Super Bowl facts?

Sports journalists had to work hard to avoid the religion ghosts in Super Bowl LII.

Nevertheless, most of them seem to have succeeded in doing so. That's strange, since it's easy to make a case that religious faith was a key factor in the chemistry behind the amazing Eagles victory. We are not talking about evangelism here, we're talking about football facts.

Let it be noted that here was a substantial wave of Godtalk coverage just before this high holy day on the American cultural calendar. Click here for a GetReligion summary of that -- including the Bob Smietana Acts of Faith piece in The Washington Post, which had lots of details on the Bible study and baptism culture in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room.

There was even a solid religion-angle in the annual battle of the Super Bowl ads, as in that bizarre spot featuring some very religious and very famous words from the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here's the top of the solid USA Today piece on that:

When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a sermon imploring hearers to imitate the servanthood of Jesus, he probably didn't envision them buying Ram trucks to do so. And yet there was King's voice Sunday night, booming through millions of TV speakers during Ram's latest Super Bowl ad:

"If you want to be important -- wonderful. If you want to be recognized -- wonderful. If you want to be great -- wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness."

What was the precise meaning of "servant" in this context?

Anyway, back to strong role that Christian faith and community service played in holding this Eagles squad together in a year in which many key players were lost with injuries, including its young superstar quarterback.

Now, I would assume that sports-beat pros covering this kind of event pay careful attention to the hometown papers for both participating teams. That would mean that lots of folks saw the pregame piece by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Marcus Hayes talking about the faith-bond between the Eagles QBs -- all of them. The overture is long, but the detail matters on several levels.

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Football Sunday: This year, a revival (literally) in Philly locker room makes lots of headlines

Football Sunday: This year, a revival (literally) in Philly locker room makes lots of headlines

I know that I have told this story before, but I really don't care.

It's Super Bowl Sunday and, as everyone knows, that is one of the high holy days of the America's secular liturgical calendar -- even in a year in which life in the National Football League has been just as screwed up and tense and divided as everything else in this land of ours. (Well, I mean other than the fact that nearly 90 percent of all Americans don't want the Team That Must Not be Named to win.)

However, there is another interesting journalism that almost always shows up during the days that precede the Super Bowl -- the almost inevitable religion-beat hook.

So here is my story from the past, before we get to God and Super Bowl LII.

Long ago, in my Rocky Mountain News days, the Denver Broncos made a couple of trips to the Super Bowl. As you would imagine, newsrooms in Denver rolled out the heavy artillery to cover these events.
Well, I turned in memos arguing that -- as religion writer -- I should be included in the teams sent to cover these festivals of civil religion.
I never got my wish, but an editor later confessed that I had a point. Religion stories kept popping up, such as the issue of whether it was acceptable for members of these two gladiator squads to share a prayer meeting and/or Bible study before the kickoff? Would that be contrary to the spirit of the event? The NFL was worried.

So with that in mind, let's turn to these 2018 headlines:

* "In a tough sports town, baptisms and Bible studies fuel many of the Eagles’ stars," an Acts of Faith feature at The Washington Post (written by freelancer Bob Smietana).

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